What makes a good owner? Well, winning doesn’t hurt. Paul Allen took over the Seahawks in 1997 and since then the team has only had 6 losing seasons.
Being decisive certainly helps. In his two seasons with Dennis Erickson at the helm, the Seahawks finished 8-8 both years; not satisfied with mediocrity, he handed the keys to Mike Holmgren.
Patience is always a virtue. Holmgren was allowed time to do his thing, build the team his way. After an improbable wild card run in his first year, Holmgren was back in the playoffs – with HIS team – four years later. That started off a run of five straight playoff appearances (including four consecutive division championships, and one Super Bowl appearance).
Making the right decisions, of course, is probably the most important. Things got away from the team towards the end of Holmgren’s run. Tim Ruskell infected this organization with his idiocy, which led to Holmgren’s ouster and the rise of Jim Mora Jr. Holmgren’s final year was a 4-12 disaster and Mora’s lone year was a somehow-worse 5-11. Not content with the direction of the team, Paul Allen cleaned house, brought in Pete Carroll and John Schneider, and before we knew it, this team was a world champion.
I think Paul Allen’s best attribute as an owner is all of those things … followed by staying out of the way and letting the football people HE hired make the football decisions. Not meddling. Not – like a certain Dallas Cowboys owner – making himself the fucking general manager and having his fingers in all the pies (seriously, thinking that HE’S smarter than Jimmy Johnson in his prime). Paul Allen didn’t just hire splashy names – though at the time, Holmgren and Carroll were certainly that – but he hired people with visions. With clear philosophies. With plans for winning football and strategies to make that happen. And if things went south, he didn’t overreact. He let his people do their jobs. And, most importantly, he always knew the perfect time to make a change.
It’s a stark contrast to the other owners we’ve had in Seattle through the years. Obviously, the Seahawks before Paul Allen were owned by a monster, Ken Behring. Before him, though, the Seahawks were run by the Nordstrom family, and their stability (and smart thinking in hiring Chuck Knox) led to a lot of success in the 80’s.
Or, consider the Seattle Mariners, whose decades upon decades of incompetence led to a brief 9-year window of semi-winning baseball. Aside from that one brief period of bliss, that organization has been run by complete morons. An owner who was never around. An executive group prone to rash decisions, bad decisions, poor hires. Letting general managers stick around too long, compound mistakes on top of more mistakes, while seemingly firing their field managers every other year! You don’t get to be the team with the longest playoff drought in major North American sports unless you’re one of the very worst-run organizations of them all. It’s been non-stop misery my whole life, and the saga continues.
And, don’t even get me started on the Supersonics. As soon as the Ackerley family decided to sell, that was the end of professional basketball in Seattle.
See, the thing is, Seattle is Sports Hell for a reason, and more often than not that reason starts at the very top. We had one good thing going for us, and that was Paul Allen’s involvement with the Seahawks. He’d obviously been having a lot of health problems in recent years, and so we knew this day would come, but I still hoped we had more time. He was only 65! We should’ve had at LEAST another 20 years! It’s obviously incomprehensibly sad for his family and friends, but it’s also a sad and uncertain time for Seahawks fans. We don’t know what the plan is going forward, but it sure looks like the team is going to be sold. At that point, we’re at the whim of some stranger.
One thing’s for certain, the new owner won’t be able to hold a candle to Paul Allen. We had the best, now get ready for the rest.